Digitization: from Object to Data

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Digitization: from Object to Data

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Information Studies, Media Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    At the end of this course the student is able to:
    • Understand the complexity and challenges of (global) data developments
    • Understand the relevance of data-oriented research for humanities and social sciences
    • Critically reflect on the implications of the selection, structuring and manipulation of data for the outcome of their work • Understand and handle the heterogeneity and diversity of humanities data • Have a basic knowledge of data formats and ontologies
    • Apply various computational techniques for cleaning, parsing and structuring / modelling of digital data

    The humanities and social sciences have more and more digital material at their disposal. Increasingly literature, newspapers, archival sources as well as library and museum catalogues become available in digital formats. Meanwhile, digital born data from social media, news media government bodies and all sorts of institutions allow scholars to work with enormous amounts of new data on human behaviour and communication. How can humanities researchers and social scientists use digital data to support their research? What are the digital tools at their disposal and how can these tools provide new perspectives and research questions?

    A first step in data-oriented research is a critical understanding of the providence, characteristics, shape and limits as well as the potential of a given dataset. In this course, students will familiarize with the ‘research data lifecycle’: Starting with the critical analysis of how data are generated or how they are created through digitization of original sources (objects), how data are formatted and structured, how they can be cleaned and annotated, how they can be modelled and analysed, and finally documented, stored and published. Practical choices that are to be made in the course of this process have crucial implications for the way data can be used in research. In class we will discuss the use of ontologies and different data formats and data models. Also practical problems like the heterogeneity of humanities data, incompleteness, disambiguation, partiality and bias will be discussed.

    This course is organized in close collaboration with the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam, a research institute that performs analytical research into Dutch literature, history and the history of knowledge, using innovative digital methods. Huygens Institute is one of the forerunners in the use of digital research methodology and the building of digital infrastructure for the humanities in the Netherlands.

    Classes will consist or a combination of lectures, discussion and hands-on practicals in which students will learn to work with a number of tools. Students will apply their knowledge and skills by creating a curated dataset and writing a short paper.

    Lectures, seminars and hands-on tutorials combined in weekly sessions 

    Written assignment (30%), practical assignment (30%) and short final paper (40%)

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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